15 June 2001
1. HOLT BILL WOULD RESURRECT OTA! "ENOUGH ACADEMIC DISCUSSION."
Ironically, after promising to reduce government, about the only
agency terminated by the Republican Congress in 1995 was its own
(WN 29 Sep 95).
The Office of Technology
Assessment was sacrificed to demonstrate that in downsizing the
federal bureaucracy Congress would not exempt itself, but it was
also symbolic of the low priority members of Congress accorded to
objective scientific information. H.R. 2148, introduced today by
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), would authorize OTA at $20M, which is
right where it was when it died. It comes at a time when major
policy questions affecting the environment and national defense
call for sound science advice. At the very highest level of
government, however, there is no White House science advisor.
2. EVOLUTION: SENATE TACKS AMENDMENT ON MAJOR EDUCATION BILL.
"sense of the Senate" resolution, dealing with the teaching of
biological evolution, was added to the bill. Introduced by Sen.
Santorum (R-PA), the language raises concerns among scientists
that it could be used by "intelligent design" (ID) proponents to
insist that ID be given equal time. That does not seem to have
been the intent of most of the measure's supporters. It states
that students should be prepared to distinguish testable science
from "philosophical or religious claims made in the name of
science." That sounds good. Alas, the bill also calls for
helping students "to understand why this subject generates so
much continuing controversy." That's an opening to teach ID.
3. PASSIVE RADAR? REMOVING THE CLOAK OF INVISIBILITY.
how stealthy is the $3.6B stealth bomber? Radar would need to
look straight up at the bomber's flat bottom surface. Tracking
would therefore require a vast array of antennas. But according
to a story early this week in the London Daily Telegraph, such
arrays already exist: Roke Manor Research in Britain claims that
stealth aircraft can be tracked by their effect on ordinary
mobile phone traffic. News media in the US did not discover the
story until last night. The Pentagon is taking it seriously, and
other nations, including China, are now developing such a system.
4. ASTROLOGICAL STUDIES? CLUELESS IN SEATTLE.
I'm not making
this up. The Higher Education Coordinating Board of the state of
Washington has authorized Kepler College of Astrological Arts and
Sciences in Seattle to issue BA and MA degrees in Astrological
Studies. According to Kepler's web site, "No other degree-
granting college or university in recent centuries has offered an
academically sound approach to the study of astrology." I wonder
why that is? Seattle, of course, is also the home of Bastyr
University, a school of Naturopathy that "integrates modern
science with the wisdom of ancient healing practices," and home
of the Discovery Institute,